In my much-anticipated 2021 colour trend forecast, find out if grey is out, where green is showing up, and if all-white walls are here to stay in home design.
The colour for 2021 is COGNAC
Less than two years ago, I thought forest green, along with black (of course) would be the new trendy sofa colour of the decade. But it only had a brief moment whereupon it went right back into the background.
Certainly compared to cognac.
But back then, when popular home decor sites started listing forest green as a standard (not custom) sofa colour, I thought “Wow, are we really back to the 80s?”.
But, it did not catch on and wind up in every living room like it did back then. Instead, cognac did a bait and switch to the trendy neutral of the moment because it so perfectly warmed up all the grey we’ve all been feverishly decorating with for the past decade.
And the good news about this warm colour is, it happens to also be a classic colour for a leather sofa. I posted about this timeless shade here in 2008 when I first starting writing this blog.
Just like subway tile was trending all throughout the grey trend, so much that people started asking me when it would be ‘out’ (by the way, NEVER) this cognac shade falls into the same category.
It’s a timeless shade, but does it look super trendy right now because we’re over-decorating with it?
Yes it does.
But I still prefer it over a black sofa.
Where Green IS Showing Up
Kitchen cabinets. While a dark green sofa proved to be too scary for most, for some reason, a much more expensive commitment to green as a kitchen cabinet colour seems much more popular and I think this look will gain even more traction in 2021 as people look for ways to ground a fresh white kitchen with some colour (for those that are wisely wary of trending black).
Is Colour (over WHITE walls) Coming Back?
Well there’s a lot of trend round-ups where designers are saying white is OUT and colour is BACK, and while I would love to report this to be true, in my over 20 years of forecasting colour, reliably, every trend cycle consistently has it’s 10 year cycle and the world of white walls will be no different.
My prediction. We have seven more years of stark white before beige walls come back for the masses.
It takes time for the next trend to catch on.
I was just having a conversation with a decorator today who reported she helped her friend choose paint colours for your new house last Fall. She specified some fresh and current complex creams and thought all was well, until she received a text from her friend saying:
“I just keep coming back to grey”.
Why did her friend still think grey was the better, more obvious and correct choice?
Because it’s hard to go anywhere without walking right into a grey on-grey-on-grey room, hotel, restaurant, so because you see it everywhere, not only do you decide you love it, you think, “OMG it’s totally timeless!?!”
So, this means Grey is OUT right?
Well again, grey used well is absolutely timeless, but yes, if we are burnt out on any colour, it’s grey. Just like beige, if you choose every textile and stick of furniture in grey, you are guaranteed to be underwhelmed with your room.
Remember, grey is a backdrop colour, it exists to soften edges and fade out behind richer, more showy hues. So if you find yourself in a faded monochrome grey world, add in some trending cognac, mustard, gold, and black and white for contrast post haste.
The Death of the Open Floor Plan
With everyone stuck at home, the flaws of the ubiquitous communal and echoey open floor plan have become glaring. North America is FULL of houses built in this contemporary builder standard style though, so it’s not like we are going to just scrap it over night. And it does still hold appeal.
But I do think we will see home plans with more traditionally designated rooms with WALLS going forward.
However, if you’re in the majority, making your open layout as functional and cozy as possible in this new world of spending MUCH more time at home with the rest of the fam jam, instead of that expansive sectional trying to fill the room, get creative about creating cozy conversational groupings of smaller furniture. Rethink previously unused corners as private nooks.
Designer Jeffrey Bilhuber (my fave!) does this incredibly well. Take a look at how he lays out his expansive rooms in a liveable way.
Defining areas with area rugs (textiles like drapes and area rugs help tremendously to dampen that echo), loungey groupings of chairs and settees. Room dividers, shelving units, or even large indoor trees work well to screen off a small area.
The Emergency Home Office
Suddenly, we all needed not one, but more home offices for the kids which were home schooling too! Looking back at 2020, I am surprised I only wrote one post about a home office and that’s this one.
More to come.
Black Accent Walls
Since some shade of white has landed in every single black and white renovation or new build, the black accent wall has also hit critical mass.
Again, be careful with adding too much black. A little black is chic, dramatic and elegant. Too much black, quickly gets harsh, flat and predictable.
But it always makes sense to use paint, the easiest element to switch up in most cases, to indulge in a passing trend. Dark, moody walls are a fun trend to try. It’s easiest to pull off in a smaller, or distinct room, obviously not the best idea for an open layout. Try it in a bedroom, bathroom, study, or in the dining room for some glamorous candlelit soirees.
Black Metal Banisters
The simple and straight black metal bannister is appearing as an option for most new builds now and is sure to continue into 2021. It’s a fitting place to introduce trending black into newer homes with the modern farmhouse and white aesthetic. A black metal banister relates well to some black lighting and hardware. Just be sure to also introduce other metal finishes like brass or polished nickel to keep the look timeless.
Read more: Is Brass Out? How to Mix Metals like a Pro
It’s not going to be the answer for every transitional home of course. Remember that trends go bad when they are applied in the wrong context.
In many transitional and traditional homes, a wood banister with unfussy straight railings painted out in the trim colour with a wood handle will still be the most versatile solution.
As we tire of stark black and white (which will always be timeless when done well), on the heels of nearly a decade of cool grey decor, our attention is turning to the warmer browns (as I predicted for 2020 here), including cognac, and a host of similar toasty hues like mustard gold, rust, terracotta and peach.
You can toss one of these warmer hues into your grey or black and white decor quite easily for an instant update.
As neutral colours in furnishings and textiles warm up, it’s best to be savvy about the undertones of beige. That safe looking oatmeal (usually pink beige or taupe greige) or gold upholstery will want to keep specific company.
Deep Mustard Yellow
I always have my eye on yellow, my favourite colour!
And it’s back in a variety of ways from pale buttery yellow beige to the deep mustards and golds that are trending.
The yellow that I would say we are distinctly NOT decorating with is Pantone’s highlighter yellow, Illuminating. The yellow that’s trending has more to do with the grounded yellows of the earthier trends like the 70s and 90s.
Is Green Trending? How About Blue?
Yes of course, green is always a trend staple. The trending greens for interiors are moving away from the cleaner jewel tones towards slightly murkier moss, sage, olive and jade.
However a crisp emerald or Kelly green is always timeless for a bold, polished look. You can’t go wrong with any foliage hue really ever.
Same with blue, the world’s favourite colour is not going away either as a fresh accent, or the primary colour of your room. However, it is being pushed out of the spotlight a bit by warmer colours.
The Shape of Things to Come
While the simple boxy tuxedo sofa will always be a classic, the TRENDING shape for furniture IS STILL flamboyantly curvy and sculptural (above).
However, it does not work in EVERY SINGLE HOUSE. And remember, it’s back from the 80s. I have an aunt who still has her curvy, low backed sofa from that era, upholstered in a mauve and black print.
This designer on Instagram did a funny reel about it here.
Simple Squared off Range Hoods
Even while furniture gets curvier, kitchen hood fans are getting boxier. A cleaner, less fussy and prominent look for hoods is becoming the norm for transitional and modern kitchens. Even hiding the hood to make it sit back and go away visually.
Also trending for kitchens, a homier, more lived in and styled look for kitchens. Kitchens are no longer the minimal strictly functional looking rooms of the industrial restaurant kitchen look that dominated the early aughts. Bring on the vintage art, lamps and personal touches in kitchens!
Oh yes, and classic handmade zellige backsplash seems to be at peak popularity at the moment. It’s the only trendy yet classic tile I wish was currently in my kitchen. Possibly because the shiny look resonates with my glam aesthetic!
Gone are the uptight days of perfect proportions. The best rooms feel more compelling because they play with scale.
Oversized furnishings, art, mirrors or lamps give a room a sense of quiet confidence that feels completely current.
Try the trend with an extra large lamp or piece of art and see what it does for your room.
Add Another Layer
Stark minimal rooms are no longer the height of sophistication. I’ve been saying it for a few years. And you know I love a well layered and styled room anyway. Adding MORE to create a richer feel is officially a thing.
There’s nothing wrong with being a minimalist. But it does normally look best in a more modern, pared down space.
As a stylist, I confess, I cannot embrace minimalism. You need lots of STUFF and surfaces (which I have many) to create vignettes. A solitary table with a bowl and a vase could never be my life, unless it was my second home.
Styling by Maria Killam
If all else fails, add more lamps!! Hands down, that’s the best way to start. Make 2021 the year that you experiment with styling. It’s an art and it takes some practice, so approach it playfully, but observe a few simple guidelines to keep it from looking like clutter.
Why are trends important?
The point of being aware of what the trends are and where they are going is not to be frantically running on a hamster wheel to stay current. The point is exactly the opposite.
If you know what the trends are, you know when you are falling prey to them. You know when to indulge in them and how. And you know how to make the most timeless choices possible for your bigger ticket items and projects so you don’t realize your mistake too late.
And trends are about attention span. Once we’ve seen a certain trend too many times (yawn), we look for something more fascinating and NEW!
There is nothing wrong with indulging in trends if you’re clear that that’s what you’re doing.
I think what gets confusing is when classics become trends. Subway tile, grey, black, white and cognac leather are all good examples. We might get tired of them in our Pinterest feed, but if they are used well, they will ALWAYS look good.
A trend fizzles quickly when we start to see it done badly over and over. And some trends are harder to get right, and those are the ones that show up more as a quick fad.
Pay attention to the ones with staying power, those are the ones that have a timeless quality that are more likely to keep your attention, or, even better, escape your negative attention (I’m looking at you trendy tile!), trending or not.
Maria, what about the Modern Farmhouse trend?
Well, it’s a trend that incorporates a whole lot of classic elements that have very loooong legs. Bright and airy white. Simple, often solid finishes like marble and subway tile. warm and earthy wood accents. Pale wood floors. Casual approachability.
While designers and creators are pushing to innovate, (because trust me, when you are in it everyday, you get tired of ubiquitous trends fast), the modern farmhouse look is still a big crowd pleaser.
But if you’re building or renovating right now, it’s a good idea to be aware that the modern farmhouse look has passed its peak, so you might want to get smart on how to do it in the most classic way possible.
Let’s make 2021 the year we collectively get smarter about where we spend. Let’s create timeless homes that are versatile enough to allow us to indulge in the odd trend that captures our fascination.
Over to you my lovelies! What trend would you add to this report that I did not discuss?
If you would like help with your renovation or new build this year, I’d love to help you get it right! You can find my eDesign packages here.